Consumer Reports has no financial relationship with advertisers on this site.
You’d think that cleaning would be the most difficult—and important—task for a dishwasher. It turns out, maybe not.
“Drying is harder than cleaning because dishes and glasses have areas that trap water, and that water doesn’t evaporate,” says Larry Ciufo, who oversees Consumer Reports’ dishwasher tests. “Also, as the dishwasher cools, water droplets from all that humid air form on the dishwasher’s interior and on the dishes.”
To test how well a dishwasher dries, we place plastic sippy cups on the top rack and run a normal cycle. Plastic is more difficult to dry than glass and ceramic because it doesn’t retain heat that would otherwise contribute to the drying process. Water that remains on plastic doesn’t evaporate as easily.
That’s where a dishwasher’s heat setting comes into play. Dishwashers dry dishes in several ways: with an electric coil that heats the air, a fan that blows hot air around, an increase in water temperature near the end of a cycle—or a combination of all these methods. Manufacturers continue to offer potential solutions, including doors that automatically pop open near the end of the cycle so that moisture can escape. The latest involves embedding the interior walls with crystals that heat up when wet to boost the drying cycle.
None of the methods guarantees dry dishes or stands out as a better drying method in our tests, so we can’t recommend one over another based on the technology alone. The results, however, speak for themselves, so be sure to check out our dishwasher ratings for the models that excel at drying. For more on dishwashers, see our dishwasher buying guide.
5 Ways to Boost Your Dishwasher's Drying
There are steps you can take to improve drying performance even if your dishwasher doesn’t have fancy drying options. Here’s what our dishwasher experts recommend.
1. Allow space between dishes. They shouldn’t touch, and your machine shouldn’t be overloaded. The idea is to improve the circulation of the water and air, which improves drying.
2. Use a rinse aid. It prevents spotting and enhances drying. The rinse aid breaks the bond between the water molecules and dishes, causing water to sheet off of your dishware.
3. Use the heat feature. The more heat, the better the drying. Depending on your dishwasher, you may have the option to add heat during the washing, rinsing, or drying cycle.
4. Open the dishwasher door a few inches as soon as the cycle ends. This allows trapped moist air to escape.
5. Empty the bottom rack first. Water collects on concave surfaces, such as mugs and glasses, that belong upside down on the top rack. Empty the lower rack first to avoid spilling water onto the contents of the bottom rack.
Consumer Reports is an independent, nonprofit organization that works side by side with consumers to create a fairer, safer, and healthier world. CR does not endorse products or services, and does not accept advertising. Copyright © 2020, Consumer Reports, Inc.